I mentioned before that I think the meaning of our lives can be found in our basic identity as human beings--all the meaning we need can be found there. We are members of a species, a unique species. What more do we really need than to be part of that species? What more do we really need than each other?
I am happy to report that recent research supports my thoughts on the meaning of our lives.
One recent study found that the purported happiness of churchgoers was directly tied to the amount of social support they got from their church attendance.
Another study found that atheists with adequate social support had just as much or more satisfaction with their lives as religious people from the same community. This second study also found a correlation between the certainty of one's view of the universe and life satisfaction--regardless of what that view is. Epiphenom also has a nice summary of this second study.
This supports another idea that I have often advanced: People don't need religion; the only thing they need is a coherent worldview. Our minds demand an understandable framework for thinking about the world in which we live and are unsettled by uncertainty.
Putting these two observations into a short soundbite that can be delivered to believers preaching the need for religion:
"People don't need religion; the only thing they need is a coherent worldview and each other."
To which can be added:
"Religion often deprives people of each other by dividing them without reason, and it uses the threat of social isolation to force people to go along with the pretense."